Emmys Producers Unveil Ambitious Plans to Broadcast Live from 140 Locations

Despite the challenges, the show must go on.

Much like everything else these days, award shows are going through some serious changes. Due to the coronavirus pandemic still affecting the United States, this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards will be a live virtual event. Jimmy Kimmel will host the show from the Staples Center stage in Los Angeles, but the show will lack both an audience and a red carpet.

Ian Stewart and Reginald Hudlin, the executive producers of the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, told Variety that they don’t plan on creating an “Emmys Light,” but rather an event with more live elements and vivacity than ever before.

“We shouldn’t lose sight that Emmys are prestigious awards, and we’re not giving them out for fun, we’re giving them out to reflect excellence,” said the duo, whose company will anchor the production of the Emmys for the third year in a row. “However, apart from that, it’s all available to be blown up, quite frankly. Because awards have been the same way for many, many years.”

The producers developed an impressive plan to station professional cameras and even camera operators where each nominee is located. That could mean managing as many as 140 live feeds throughout the night and broadcasting from nominees’ homes, hotels, and various other locations. Stewart notes it’s all about comfort and simply showing up, no matter the setting that the nominees choose to broadcast from.

Although the Emmys are usually held at the Microsoft Theatre, this year’s Staples Center setting was chosen specifically with these live feeds in mind. Considering the facility’s enormous size, it’s capable of managing a large volume of video feeds entering its control room from remote locations.

“One is that it’s so large that the crew can work safely under COVID-safe protocols and be at the appropriate distance from each other,” Hudlin said. “Because obviously the most important thing is safety first. The second part is, this show will need an unbelievable number of wiring connections in and out, because the nominees are not going to be there. So we’re going to take cameras to where they are. And the number of feeds that that requires is so massive that we need a facility like the Staples Center, which is used to having that much signal from reporters covering sports to handle the kind of in and outputs that it requires.”

Of course, with any large-scale virtual event, technical (and personal) difficulties should always be kept in mind. Stewart and Hudin are ready to account for a variety of issues, including nominees’ concerns with a camera crew at their locations and possibly allowing family members or friends in their “COVID bubble” to operate video equipment. The producers say that their main goal is to avoid platforms like Zoom, Facetime, or Skype broadcast on the program.

“We’re not trying to make the Zoomies, we’re trying to make the Emmys,” said Stewart. “So one of the things we are trying to do is get the highest-end kit to wherever that person is on whatever level of comfort they have. The best thing for us is to have very high-end cameras, with a person operating them in somebody’s house or wherever they are.”

He adds: “There will be people who logistically or whatever, we can’t do this. We’ll come up with other solutions. But our start point is nothing technology-wise that people have seen before.”

The show certainly differs from the five-night Creative Arts Emmys, held on September 14-17 and 19, in which all nominees were asked to submit a pre-taped acceptance speech, with only the winner’s speech airing.

The event will also unfortunately lack what made it undeniably glamorous each year. No red carpet or pre-show arrivals means no official display of designers or stylists, making it quite the mystery as to how nominees will choose to present themselves from the comfort of their own spaces. Although a virtual red carpet was in the works, Stewart and Hudlin decided that focusing on the actual ceremony was the best case.

The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place virtually on Sunday, September 20 on ABC.

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